Patrick Horgan says he found the circumstances around getting dropped during last year’s championship difficult, feeling he was treated unfairly.
When the Cork team was named for their All-Ireland SHC preliminary quarter-final against Antrim last June, the omission of Horgan was the obvious talking point.
The 34-year-old forward started Cork’s four Munster SHC games and scored in all of them, including his 0-4 against Waterford that elevated him to top of the all-time championship scoring standings.
He was taken off in the latter two of those matches, against Waterford and Tipperary. Still, when Kieran Kingston announced his side for the Antrim clash, Horgan believed he would be on the starting 15.
“I was surprised I wasn’t because I thought I was training really well, I felt really sharp at the time. But they obviously had different ideas,” recalls Horgan.
Pat Ryan has come in as Cork manager for 2023 and the change of management is something Horgan hopes can lead to a more positive campaign, both for himself and the team.
“I thought for a lot of last year that there was a lot of, I suppose, treatment going on that I thought wasn’t fair,” he continues.
“That doesn’t mean to say anybody else didn’t think it was fair. I suppose anybody who doesn’t play thinks they’re being treated unfairly, but I was one of them and I thought I was being treated unfairly.
“Is it something I think about? No. I obviously prepare myself the best I can for every game, every week and every year. I know what’s required for myself to be competitive. Maybe I didn’t do enough, maybe I did – I don’t know.
“I don’t think much went right last year and I don’t know what that was down to, I suppose everybody has their own opinion but I just think the year was a failure before it kind of even happened.
“There was stuff going on all the time that really is not supposed to happen on a team, everybody is supposed to be positive and everybody is supposed to be driving each other, exactly the way it’s happening now.
“When you have fellas training three, four or five times a week, giving it their all, the least they deserve is probably a bit of encouragement. That’s exactly what’s happening at the moment.
“Every fella is driving on, we’re getting a buzz off each other and a buzz off the positivity around the whole group. It’s a great place to go. When I go to work in the morning I’m thinking, ‘I can’t wait to go training tonight’, and that’s always a good place to be.”
Horgan says there was no fallout between him and the management last year, but looking back on the 2022 campaign there appears to be a general frustration that Cork never really got motoring.
Their summer ended with a defeat to Galway, a match Horgan also started on the bench. He was introduced at half-time, by which stage the Rebels were already chasing the game.
“I didn’t fall out with anyone,” adds Horgan. “When you’re putting so much time into something, all you want is for you, the other players and everybody to be at the top of their game.
“And we weren’t, it’s as simple as that, and we weren’t for a long period of last year. We kind of got out of jail against Waterford with a bit of a performance from the players when their backs were against the wall, I suppose. Everything else after that, there kind of wasn’t much happening really.”
The Glen Rovers clubman did not get any explanation for why he was dropped but says he would not have expected one either.
“No, funnily enough, I wasn’t given much of that,” says Horgan. “I wasn’t told anything really, which kind of made it a bit strange, but at the same time I am in a panel of players and if someone is going to tell me why I am not playing or why I am playing they’d have to tell everybody else, to be fair. That’s a big job too. I wouldn’t have expected a reason.”
He is gearing towards the start of the Allianz Hurling League this weekend, with Cork opening their campaign with a home tie against Limerick at Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday night.
Horgan scored 1-6 in Cork’s recent Munster Senior Hurling League final victory over Tipperary and says he never really contemplated stepping away from the intercounty scene after the 2022 season.
“It just gives me that bit of enjoyment that nothing else can give me, do you know what I mean, sport-wise or pastime-wise,” he says.
“You get a buzz off hurling, playing in front of a crowd, training with the best players in your county. That would be hard to replace and it’s something I don’t want to replace, now anyway.
“I still enjoy it and I still feel fresh. I feel fit, probably fitter than ever before. I just have this drive for continuous improvement and any player in the country who was that, you don’t want to give it up when you’re thinking those things.”
Patrick Horgan was speaking at the launch of the 2023 Allianz Hurling League